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Malaysia’s Hindraf activists face trial


Kuala Lumpur : Fifty one sympathisers of banned Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), including lawmaker N. Gobalakrishnan, will be tried next month in a Malaysian court as 14 pleaded guilty for damaging public property and participating in an illegal gathering in 2007.

They would all be tried by a court from May 11, a bench of the sessions court in Shah Alam ruled Tuesday.

Before the ruling, there was “chaos” at the sessions court when a lawyer and three members of the public traded barbs at the start of a trial involving 65 Hindraf members, New Straits Times said Wednesday.

Just as counsel G.K. Ganesan, who was representing 62 of the accused, began explaining the consequences of pleading guilty and asked his clients if they still wanted to do so, shouts broke out from the public gallery.

S. Jayathas, organiser of Tamil activists’s group Makkal Sakthi, stood up and told all the accused not to plead guilty and to fight till the end.

“I am talking to my clients. Who are you to tell them what to do? I have documents here to say that they have engaged me as their lawyer,” Ganesan shouted back at Jayathas.

“See, I have the files here,” he said as he held up a thick folder and threw it on the table. Ganesan then directed his anger to a woman who was also sitting at the public gallery.

“Madam, please get out! I want to talk to my clients in private.”

The woman, identified as Shantini Krishnan, shouted back by asking the lawyer what wrong she had done.

“I have relatives here. Why should I leave?” she asked.

After heated exchanges, the lawyer walked out, but returned to the court, the newspaper said.

It was supposed to be the first day of trial for 65 men charged with participating in an illegal assembly organised by Hindraf and damaging public property in November 2007.

They admitted to the charge of participating in the illegal assembly and to causing mischief by damaging public property, including the gates of the Sri Subramaniam Temple and seven vehicles at Jalan Besar, Batu Caves, between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. Nov 25, 2007.

Hindraf, since banned, organised the protest march in Kuala Lumpur which had 10,000 participants. It was declared illegal and five of its top leaders are serving two-year jail terms.